Monday, January 28, 2013

The Oldest Object in The Oldest Thing in The Oldest House - Part One

The Oldest Object in The Oldest Thing in The Oldest House – Part One

            “I’d already found a (silver) dime up on the first floor.  A ‘roll away’:  Nothing.   We find money all the time.  That dime was 1917 but that wasn’t its roll away date.  Too worn.  Probably rolled off in nineteen FIFTY-seven.  Didn’t pay nothing (no attention) to it; just put it in my pocket.
            “Anyway:  I’d boxed through that chamber first (packed up the attic chamber into boxes) then went up to the barn at break (fifteen minutes at 9:30 AM).  I knew there was a lot to do for that (the attic chamber).  That’s why we start at seven.  That is:  I START.  They start too but whine a lot.  In this place it was a whole day just on what I could SEE.  So they’re still stumbling around up there.  Most of ‘em.  So I know I got to strip that cellar when I go back down.  And I should get those boxes out of the chamber too.  These old spaces:  You gotta get them CLEARED OUT before you can crawl them and FIND the old stuff.  Can’t see.  Can’t move around all that crud even when I get it all neatly in the boxes stacked up in the center.  GET IT OUT I say.  I do a lot better creeping around when the spaces are ‘EMPTY’ to the average eye.  Anyway; I go back down and tell Teddy to come down and hump the chamber boxes down to the first floor.  I’m gonna strip the cellar and bring all that crud UP (to the first floor).  So I go down and start.  Pretty soon Bunk comes down instead of Teddy.  That wasn’t a surprise.
            “Teddy:  He don’t want to hump those boxes DOWN.  Down’s actually harder than UP but you wouldn’t know that for the first few times (estate clean outs).  Anyway.  I know Bunk and all he did was tell Teddy he’d ‘do it’ and Teddy; he’s glad to get out of it.  So I see Bunk and he sees me and no one says anything and he goes up and down and I go down and up.  I put the cellar crud in the left room and he shoots the boxes into the right room.  I got the long walk because I got to go around the north side to get into that left front room.   He’s coming down straight to the right and into the sunny room.  But I get it cleared.
            “There weren’t that much.  You know; some pile-on and old food storage.  Just the HOLE with THAT.  So it comes up easy and I get to the shelves.  Now I gotta leave the built-in.  You know; part of the house they say.  But I can take the free standing.  OR… the MADE TO BE free standing.  So I see two of those just tacked in.  So I free them and they’re real early but plainer than JANE.  I take them up and stand down there trying to figure if I can get away with anymore.  They’re ALL EARLY.  But… they built ‘em in.  If I take ‘em they’ll have to come all apart AND will leave a big scar so….
            “So just then down comes Bunk.  Course he’s got it empty.  He says.  And of course he knows that (what I’ll think of him telling me that) and he knows WHAT’S NEXT.  So I give it up and say OH GO AHEAD.  And he’s like:  Sheepish.  And I’m like I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE HERE FOR and WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M DOING ANYWAY BUT GO AHEAD.  So he’s half way down the (cellar) stairs and we talk over the shelves and he’s shining (his flashlight) round and I see he doesn’t have a head lamp (flashlight attached to his forehead like cross country skier’s use).  We all use those and I got mine ON (actually turned on) AND a flashlight as usual.  So I just file that because I now know he won’t SEE well up there and that fine because that’s MY CHAMBER anyway.   AND I say “THIS IS MY HOLE” to him too.  So he says he knows and shines around from the stairs and I go over and say get out of my way.  He steps up the stairs and says am I sure I don’t mind (him crawling the attic chamber).  So I say GO FOR IT, step up onto the stairs and face the stone work with my head lamp.

            “I put the flashlight down on the stairs, take my gloves off and then start feel along the top of the stonework where the floor beam rests; that space.  I can’t see anything even with the head lamp.  BUT I CAN FEEL.  So Bunk watches two steps above.  And I got both hands sliding slowly with just finger tips; going along to my right.  Sure enough something MOVES under ‘em.  So I reach it up and it’s a coin.  I knew it.  Bunk, of course, sees it come up too.  I put it in my lamp (put it under the light of the head lamp) and it’s 1807.  Penny.  WORN.

            “Bunk he see THAT and we meet eyes and his little paw comes out and I pause there in his eyes and just slip that penny into my pocket.  Then I put my fingers right back up where they were and sure enough the next second I hit a second coin.  This one I get up and in the light and it’s a penny too; 1847.  Large cent in real good shape.  Bunk:  I wasn’t looking at but I could feel him looking and that he was about to GO so to speak.  So I rolled that penny in my finger tips and looked up at his eyes and he takes his eye off the penny and into mine but he don’t put his hand out this time.  He looks at that penny in my fingers again.  I reach into my pocket and bring back that other penny.  I got both in my hand.

            “And look at him looking at me and the TWO pennies.  Then he looks just at me and I can see he’s pretty much beside himself.  Then he looks up at that beam space at the top of the stone work.  Then back at me.  I say ‘pretty GOOD huh.’ and he nods.  Then I say, looking down at the pennies in my hand; ‘the ONLY PERSON whose touched these in ONE HUNDRED YEARS… at least… is ME.  Right now.  JUST me.  And if you hadn’t weaseled down here you’d never know it.  I don’t know if I should LET YOU TOUCH THEM.  Oh he fidgets at THAT.  Then I hand ‘em to him.  Oh don’t he JUST… WANT ‘EM.  So he’s got ‘em in his little pink paw and looks at me.
            “So I say FIFTY BUCKS.  And he’s WHAT?  And I say I FOUND ‘EM; I don’t want ‘em.  He goes ‘FIFTY BUCKS?’.  I go that’s cheap.  He says ‘CHEAP?’.  I go OK ONE HUNDRED.  He looks at me, then at the pennies and then puts ‘em in his pocket.  ‘Fifty bucks.  You sure you don’t want ‘em?’.  I FOUND THEM I say.  That was IT for me.  What do I want carry them around for?  Here:  You can have the dime too.
            “Then he goes up in that chamber.  He’s up there for an hour crawling around with no head lamp trying to find a penny.  I got a good laugh out of it.  I tell him I’ll go up there after your done messing around do it right.  But you stay out of HERE.  This is MY hole.”.
            “He’s still got those pennies I know.  He’ll show ‘em to his girlfriends, show ‘em to his wife.  Show ‘em to his children and show ‘em to his GRAND CHILDREN too.  Show ‘em off his whole life.  Finding those.  I FOUND ‘EM.  Every time he shows ‘em he’ll remember THAT TOO.  I’ll be TWICE DEAD before he finishes showing those off but he’ll always know that I found ‘em even when I’m twice dead.
            “They didn’t have no money down there.  Didn’t need any money.  Just bartered.  A coin was rare and what do you do with it.  Rum was the first coin.  YOU COULD DRINK THAT.  That’s why those pennies were there.  PUT AWAY safe.  What were they going to do with ‘em?  Go to the MALL?  That (1807) worn one was used along time.  Nobody started using coins much on these farms until after the Civil War.  Didn’t HAVE any coins either.  Those two pennies is probably all they had.  Saved up huh.
            "Anyway.  I got rid of Bunk.  He give up hunting for gold after an hour.  I went up there and first thing I got was a piece of busted looking glass.   Leaning right up behind the little fireplace.  Bunk never touched that.  He saw it.  But he don’t KNOW.  They saved that piece of glass.  They USED IT.  And then if they didn’t want it they could swapped it.  But they never did.  One of them Indian women; squaw.  Can you still say that?  Anyway.  Coming to the door.  She’d have given TWO of her handmade baskets just to get the busted piece of glass.  And wouldn’t I want to find those two baskets in there.  But that didn’t happen.  I got the glass though.  Bunk; he don’t know to do this.  He don’t know to READ the objects.  That glass wasn’t an accident up there.  Who ever puts a piece of a busted looking glass (mirror) in an attic?  He thought that was a busted mirror.  He wouldn’t know a looking glass if he was standing in front of one.  Could be a Queen Anne looking glass and he’d think it was a mirror and tell you so.  Anyway:  I finally get my hole to myself except I can here Bunk looking for pennies WAY up there in my chamber."

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Oldest Thing in The Oldest House

“The Oldest Thing in the Oldest House?”

            “That I found?  That I THINK is the oldest thing?  Well…:
            “IT’S NOT GONNA BE WHAT you’d THINK BE the OLDEST.  I bet.  May not even be a THE THING either.  And THAT by MY FEEL.  I don’t THINK much anymore doing this (being an antiques & estate picker).  Used to THINK all the time.  NOW I just FEEL.
            “And NOT that I’d turn and ask YOU.  Yep...; I know THAT answer.  Over my shoulder with my flashlight pointed FORWARD I’d still be able to see that BLANK LOOK from YOU back there in the dark.  Wouldn’t even be able to trust you to get what I found OUT the CELLAR DOOR without breaking it.  Nope.  Would have to just let it SIT THERE until you’d CLEARED THE AREA and then I’d fetch it.  That’s WHY I work ALONE doing this; no clutter-bug infatuate breathing on my NECK.  Down there on that island I put ‘em ALL up in the barn.  They LIKE that crud.  Its ANN-TIQUES to them SCIENTISTS of that SUBJECT.  They don’t FEEL.  And they DO tell me what they THINK.
            “So they don’t THINK I’ve figured THAT out and sulky THINK that I am taking that attic chamber ALL for myself.  WHICH I DID.  I’m not gonna to through all this and let them amateur magicians into the BIG show.  Till I’m done.  Then they can look around.  Supervised of course.  The big magic show is over.  Not that they’d know THAT.  Just want to SEE and then TELL ME.  But THAT ain’t even the point.
            SEE:  That CHAMBER:  Its been GONE THROUGH.  Over the years,  Ain’t anyone sure of themselves enough to NOT GO to the ATTIC FIRST so I can be pretty sure that HERE every twenty years since TIME BEGAN for that chamber a SOMEBODY has gone up there and put in, took out, gone through or just plain MESSED WITH IT up there.  EVEN those HEDGE FUNDERS did a WENT THROUGH IT, you know; to SATISFY themselves.  I know that from the way that fellah STARED at my check.  They’d DECIDED before I got there… that it was all junk UP THERE.  Figured they must have taken something but I DON’T THINK THEY DID.  Actually.  Not new enough.  NOT CLEAN ENOUGH.  For that NEW HOUSE.  Those kind of people FEEL BETTER when they START FROM SCRATCH.  NEW.
            “Anyway:  You ask so I’ll tell you the truth fair and square.  It weren’t the chamber for me.  Oh that was GOOD but been through.  YOU WANT early; oldest, you gotta get to where THAT hasn’t happened.  And there’s NOT A LOT of SPACES that haven’t had someone THINK they’ve BEEN THROUGH it.  So I LOOK HARD.  And feel.  And I already knew ANYWAY.  JUST FEEL IT.  And that’s that CELLAR.
            “Just a damn HOLE they dug TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO.  Dug a HOLE on that ISLAND.  Think of that:  Digging that and standing down in the bottom of THAT HOLE way out there on that ISLAND in the middle of NO WHERE.  THEN they make that chimney up one side of that hole.  THEN they build a house around all of it.  THEN they put that miserable step stairs DOWN INTO that hole and spend two hundred years going up and down that stairs like that cellar’s a walk-in refrigerator WHICH IT IS.  Always COOL.  COLD in winter but never HOT in summer.  Best thing they had and they knew it.  Except for that CHIMNEY of course.
            So what ever went DOWN there had to COME BACK UP.  Which it did most of the time over the hundreds of years.  ‘Cept that of course no one is staying on TOP of that; what goes down and what comes back UP.  SEE I know THAT.  That’s because I’VE been bringing DOWN and taking UP all my life in my OWN cellar.  Take the onions down.  Bring the onion back up.  Bring the basket back up when its empty.  OR DON’T.  There; right there, is it.  Gotta BRING it BACK UP.  For two hundred years.  Didn’t ALWAYS happen.  I know that.  I got stuff down in MY OWN that I PUT THERE over a QUARTER CENTURY ago.  Still right there.  Sits down there.  For years.  For TWO HUNDRED YEARS.  I know that.
            None of the rest of ‘em do; too stupid.  Because they THINK.  I could FEEL IT.  Just like mine.  ‘Cept that MINE is about 1752 I figure.  This one WAS OLD.  1732.  THEY SAY.  I bet you someone was there before that chimney.  I bet that there was a house right there.  And they dug that hole too.  Or started the hole anyway.  OLD.  People don’t realize how OLD people REALLY were along the coast here.  REALLY OLD.  That house may have been the THIRD house there.  Log cabin.  Or two.  Burned.  Indian burned.  No one writing ANYTHING DOWN.  Couldn’t.  Couldn’t even READ.  THOSE were the FIRST PEOPLE down there.  And not a trace.  Except that HOLE.  I could FEEL IT.  On that Island.  They were there EARLY.  Fishermen.  Better life THERE than where ever they CAME FROM.  Went out fishing and never went back.  THAT was the FIRST house.  After that there was ALWAYS someone there.  Except for the INDIANS BURNING.  But by that ‘THEY SAY’ (1732) it was SAFE from then on.  So they built THAT house, with the chimney… over THAT HOLE.  There could be one hundred years of BEFORE for that hole.  THAT’S probably the OLD THING in THE OLDEST HOUSE.  That hole.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Oldest House

The Oldest House

            If  “the oldest house” “on the island”… is the only house on that island… being “the oldest house” makes no sense.  If “the oldest house on the island” is one of four buildings on that island… that creates a “possible” for it to be… an “oldest” “house”.  IF… this “the oldest house” on this “on the island” turns out to… not be… on an island but be on a “once was an island” that …to this “the oldest house on the island” …a great amount of stone was hauled “from the shore” in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to fabricate a permanent roadway that created a peninsula from that island… and THEN “a (second) house” “was built” on this peninsula leaving the original “oldest house on the island” to be, correctly, the oldest house on the peninsula with “two older buildings” AND the “new house”.  In the final oral tradition, the new roadway and the new house DOES leave “the oldest house” “on the island”… to “be that” “originally”.
            “They say”.  In “1732” when this oldest house “was built”… they made a large brick chimney from handmade brick made on shore and carried to the island by boat.  After building the forty-eight inch square chimney… with three fireplaces… they surrounded that with a small square (“Cape”) “house”.  The frame and rafters of the house were made from white pine trees cut down on the island.  The rest of the “wood” found “on”, “in” and “of” the house “came from shore”.  The nails, iron hardware and glass windows “came from Boston by boat”.  “They say”.
            None of this matters anymore.  By the time I …was released by the owners of the “island” from our ‘all business’ conversation “at” the “new house” to “look in” the three other buildings… to “see” if I “will buy” the contents of these buildings and “remove it promptly”… the “dreadful fate” of these three buildings… including “the oldest house” was a “done deal”.  The original “new house”, when I arrived, was in the final stretch of a full “to the shell” “renovation”, “modernization”, “opening up”, “expansion” and “raising”.  I could see this and did not say a word.  I did understand that “fresh water” “was still a problem” meaning to me that if one has a giant new house on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean “getting” “fresh water” “is a problem”.  The three buildings “are all unlocked”.
            I toured a rotting fishing shed by “the old dock” that was “being replaced” by a “NEW DOCK” next to it.  This shed was full of “old stuff”.  I next toured “the barn” that “went with the oldest house” but “is not the original barn”.  “We don’t know what happened to THAT barn”.  I found out once inside this barn:  It was a 19th century post and beam frame that had all sorts of “old wood” used “all over” that “must have come from another building” like “the original barn”.  I did not say anything about this.  This barn was “full of stuff” “pretty much”.  Finally I toured “the oldest house”.  It was very, very, very old.  To say that it “was built in 1732” …was “fair”.
            I walked slowly through the whole first floor and that means I walked through an interior circle of little rooms surrounding the large chimney.  Back before the front door I opened the door to the stairs to ‘the chamber” and climbed into the open unfinished space where I had to crouch, duck and bend over to …move around the chimney with its small chamber fireplace so I could “look at” “all” “the stuff”.  The first floor was very sparsely furnished; a “mostly empty”.  The chamber was not “packed” but… was “full” of “old stuff”.  Walking back up to the unfinished new “new house”, I figured out an “it is mostly junk but some stuff is ok” offer of “six hundred dollars” and “we will have it all cleaned out by tomorrow afternoon if we can start “today” (this afternoon after lunch).
            They didn’t say anything about my offer except to clarify that we would “start today” and “be done tomorrow?”
            “May we have a receipt for this?” one of the brothers asked.
            “I believe” I said “that it is you who gives a receipt to me”.
            “A receipt?”
            “Yes.  I am buying the stuff from you”.
            ‘Oh.  Right.”
            I gave them a check for six hundred dollars.  It I memo noted as “contents / 3 buildings”.  They did not give me a receipt.  The one brother looked my check over very carefully but said nothing.  Then no one said anything more so I said “I will be back with my team in two hours”.  And left.

            We came back in under two hours and worked for five hours packing up everything in the three buildings.  We brought two truck loads of empty cardboard boxes and used almost all of them.  Everyone was working hard, getting dirty with “old stuff dirt”, having a good time “finding things” and packing those finds and all else away in the stacked up and very plain looking cardboard boxes.  Some things would not fit in the boxes so were set out separately.  Some things were set out separately because “somebody” “wants that”.  That always happens during the clean outs.  A lot of times the “somebody” “doesn’t want it” when they “have to pay for it” “later”.  That always happens too.
            I did not work in the barn.  I worked in “the oldest house” chamber.  And “the oldest house cellar.  And the first floor of “the oldest house”.  I didn’t have to do much on the first floor.  I also worked in the old rotten shed down by the …old rotten dock.  The “people” of the property “had left” as they had said they would.  Only the carpenters, painters, plumbers and electricians were there working on the new “new house”.  After a while two of them went down to the barn and talked with the crew working in there.  They “liked antiques” and wanted to know if we “found anything good”.  “The buildings are always locked” they said.  We had to “please lock the buildings when you leave”.  That was fine by me for I am always worried about “people” “taking stuff” “during a clean out”.  By putting everything as much as possible in the very plain cardboard boxes and stacking those up inside the buildings (except the shed boxes that we “move those up to the barn”… it makes “it hard to see” “what we found”.
            I worked in the house chamber because that was where the oldest and best “stuff” “would be”.  I figured.  I knew that no one would have been in the cellar so that was “good too”.  The shed was good too; full but “nothing great”.  The barn had a lot in it but most of it was late 19th and first half 20th century “stuff” from the “new house” that had been either moved “long ago” out of that house or moved out by the property owners to “clean out” that house “before we begin work”.  This last “stuff” was piled on top of the earlier moved “stuff” on the first floor of the barn.  It included “the stuff” “they found” “in the attic” of the “new house”.  The second floor of the barn had “stuff” from that “new house” moved to the barn the longest time ago.  And old hay.  Although the barn “stuff” was “good”, it didn’t interest me the way “the oldest house” colonial era chamber did.  So I didn’t do much in the barn except look at the stacked boxes and the “good stuff” set aside and say things like “WE’RE MAKING PROGRESS!” and “GOOD JOB!”.  And the obligatory “Ok… you can have that”.
            A little after five we were pretty much done.  By then the work crews at the new “new house” had left.  It was “a long drive” “up” from “the island” to “Route One” (the main coastal Maine “road”… so “they always stop-off early” they said.  “Good.” I said to myself.
            I looked over the empty shed, the stacks of boxes in “the oldest house” and the large tier of stacked boxes in the barn.  I locked the house and the barn.  The shed had no lock.  I walked out on the old dock.  “It’s actually in pretty good shape.” I said when asked by one of the team who saw me.  Then we briefly rehashed that “the oldest house” and the barn “have been sold to someone who is going to take them down and move them”.  “That means sell them” I said.  No one argued the point.  I didn’t care.  I can’t.  This kind of “dreadful fate” happens all the time.  A little colonial cape like this one often ends up “fully renovated” and “attached” to a larger modern house in …the mid-west.  With the 1732 date, that “full renovated” “colonial cape” might as well have been moved to the moon.  “Are they going to take the chimney too?” one of the team asked.
            “I don’t know.” I said.
            They didn’t.  The last time I was down there I could still see it “from the road”.  Even the property owners “can’t deal with it”.  And the cellar hole.  You can see the new dock too but the old dock and the shed are “gone”.
            The next morning we; the team in their pickup trucks and I in mine, all “showed up” “at seven”.  The last bit of the drive down there we were all clustered together on the road with some of the new “new house” workers.  Pretty much everyone “started at seven” “down there” I gathered.  We loaded three trucks with the boxes fast and they “took off” for the warehouse.  A few of us stayed behind.  I “checked out things” and “poked around”.  I went in the chamber again.  I went in the cellar again.  I walked the first floor.  I went to the shed.  “Nothing; job done” was the result.  “Something” “though” “is bothering me”.
            “Something” “is” “not right”.  (?).  “Something… I can just FEEL IT.”  So I went back up to the barn and the tier of boxes and.  Well… we’d only started down that so that was “THE” second load “at least” with, probably, a “mop up” “go over it all again” load at the end “with just a few of us”; “you don’t need to comeback after you unload thanks”.  I looked up into the whole of the empty barn.  “Old hay up there.”
            “Check it”.  I did.  Nothing but hay dust.  I stood at the front again looking out the front up to the new “new house” with the workmen… outside by their trucks …working with their coffees.  “It (the barn) does block the (ocean) view from that house” I said.  I turned around and stared down into the barn.  To my left; the “my left” side of the barn… was the “south side” so …as is usual… the animal stalls run down that side because it is “warm” “in winter”.  There were four stalls down this side with a head door closing off these stalls to “even more” “keep in the heat”.  There were four stalls; first two identical “the horses” stalls, then a smaller “milk cow” stall.  Then, at the end, a larger “anything else” animal (sheep, goat, beef critter), et al… stall.  I’d walked those?  I didn’t actually “clean them”.  I said to myself.  “Well… check ‘em”.
            I went down to the end stall and… it had some hay on the floor.  The milk cow stall had her hitch chain bolted in it and… it would cost as much as I’d get for the chain ($2.00) to “get it out of there” so “leave it”.  First horse stall; nothing.  Front horse stall nothing.  “WAIT A MINUTE” as my eyes looking into the dark stall with the big door opening out to me CAUGHT in the shadowed darkness JUST INSIDE to the right of the door a… “small table?” AS my same eyes see “THE LEG” and my left arm pivots and reaches as I step into the stall an lift… the table out… into the light of the stall corridor and… set it “OH MY” down and bend over its top corner to see down upon the “old inlay” top carrying to the molded skirt following to “THE LEG” that curves PRECIOUSLY to a “Dutch FOOT OH MY IT’S REAL”.  Seeing “one toe chipped old dark finish inlay missing perfect otherwise THE SMALL SIZE” I… “it’s real”; a real 18th century Boston area tea table “1760” “easy” “probably older”.  I lift it with my left hand at the leg corner and then slide this left hand to the center of the end skirt and …walk out into the daylight before the barn and I
            Do not stop walking but, lightly carrying the table, go directly to my truck cab passenger’s side, open the door, slid the table in easily and say “I’ll look at YOU later”.  I close the door and go back up to the front of the barn.  No one says anything to me or appears to have noticed I doing anything.  The trucks comeback for the second load a few minutes later.  I’m a little dizzy (light headed) during that loading.  “Must have come up on a boat from Boston” I say to myself as I look off from the barn to “the oldest house on the island”  and its old dock …reaching out into the sea beyond.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Downtown - Part Five


Part Five

            I didn’t stop visiting the Tippecanoe bottle.  Although I had “found” something “buried” just like it, it was ..not.. that bottle.  So I visited it just as much.  But now the travel to it from the school always included a memorial visit to the hole that the “crock” “was in”.  I couldn’t go by it without “stopping”.  There it was; a hole in the side of the stream bank.  More and more leaves seemed to find their way into the hole, even after I cleaned them out.  The impression of the crock at the bottom had “disappeared”.  I didn’t care.  It was a special spot.  Then:
            GONE!  One day the bottle at the store was GONE!  Someone bought it?  There was no impression of it left on the counter?  YES THERE WAS!  A little open space had a faint dust ring where... something with a round base had stood for a... long time.  “WHO?” I asked, a feisty demand that was out of character but did not phase the owner for he was convinced I “wanted” that bottle.  He seemed a little surly about his “It sold to a man and his wife.  Never seen ‘em before”.
            “Oh”.  That was it.  It was over.  WHY HADN’T I bought it!  I’ll never see it again!  Every dealer-collector knows these frantic mental lines.
            I did see it again.
            I had joined, as a result of my own discovery, a local collector association for those who collect old bottles.  It was an adult group that met once a month far away from my home so that I had to “force” my mother to drive me there and then... return to pick me up “later”.  I was not a star member.  I was, as a youth senses, in over my head.
            It was not that I couldn’t hold my own as a discoverer of rare old bottles.  It was that I was a youth amongst adults and these adults although acting like children when discovering old bottles were none the less ADULTS so to a youth the chasm of authority and power remained theirs.  These adults were... serious.  In hindsight a few were a touch past the word serious and toward the childhood meaning of the word “crazy”.  But I did, TOO, find old bottles so had no problem hanging around the edges of the association for THAT ACTION was the ticket to admission (after one paid “dues”).  The greatest attraction of the association meetings to me was the opportunity, each month, to display for sale, each to their own spot on tables “along the side”, items one had found that one wished to “swap” for PREFERABLY although never stated “cash”.  All one had to do was attend and “put out” one’s goods and, well, one could come home with a full wallet and an empty cardboard box.  This feature of the “association” I became an expert at, endeavoring to fully realize the potential of my “swap” “spot”.  I would find “stuff” each month before the meeting.  I would cautiously decide “what to bring”.  I would displayed the priced treasures and “dicker” one on one with, again in hindsight, some of the hardest adult crow-bait collectors I’ve… ever, ever …who were in fact willing to spend the three whole hours of the meeting beating me down five cents and other ridiculous wastes of human life energy upon “something” they “want”.  Although it is fine now to observe the lunacy of this intercourse, it did serve me “purpose” and VERY WELL for it was the first and foremost “training” I had selling “JUNK” to complete strangers who FREELY USED ANY TACTIC they “could” to have their way with me.  What a school:  It blew those junior high dirty magazine hallway deals out the side door of my life for “this was real”.
            Too real, probably.  We all know the power of human passion… and having that unlocked in an adult who “sees something they want” that “some kid found”… particularly if they (the adult) is off the record from their “real” life for the evening:  It can be and WAS “wild”.  “LET’ER RIP” “dealing” was “OK” at the “MEETING” so I quickly learned right there on that street how to ...fight on the street of antiquarian commerce.  Mumbling, muttering, marble mouth, ear scratching “CHEAP” “coming around” here introduced me to what I still, forty years later, endure DAILY.  HUMAN CHARACTER from “ALL WALKS” who, unleashed into the world of their “hobby” may drop with death defying clarity all decorum of their “day to day” and “whack the sand” out of “you” in an effort to “get something” “cheap” for their “collection”.  To review in my mind as I write the verbal vignettes that I listened to and ...believed ....from these fine people... is a lesson well learned young that has served me very well and I’m here today fully able to… dish it back TOO!
            The twist of this setting to “find” the Tippecanoe bottle manifested promptly at the next meeting after the bottle had been “sold”.  I attended as usual.  I displayed my goods for “swap” as usual.  I circulated amongst the other “swap spots” as usual, carefully scrutinizing the always priced so there “weren’t a nickel left in it” offerings of the other “members”.  NO PROBLEM.
            No problem until I “saw” a Tippecanoe bottle nestled amongst some other “finds” within the “swap space” of a short, stubby and both Humpty-round regularly attending, “got a great collection” couple whom I’d had a very small smattering of interaction with.  I promptly reached for the bottle.  It was sparklingly clean BUT it had a devastating inclusion to my knowing eye.  At it’s top, wedged just as I KNEW it to be, was the three-fourths piece of original cork that THE BOTTLE the FAT DRUNK “found” “HAD”.  Could not be ANY OTHER BOTTLE, no way.  I held it.  It was perfectly sticker priced “$50.-”.  “THAT’S THE BOTTLE!” screamed my mind.  “There’s a good one!” came a male voice behind my right ear.
            I turned to be face to face with a man (he was not that tall) dressed in dark blue crispy clean work clothes and “sporting” hair such as one knows instantly he (this being 1967) “hated hippies” which I was trying as hard as a junior high kid can to “be”.  He already had me in his sights for an “unloading on” for I HAD sold him “something” “once” and that was now a notched gun in his mind opening the door for the dreaded “collector revenge”.  This revenge is a sort of “all bets are off in commerce” until the tab is either “square” or HE had “advantage” on the notched gun in his head.  Fortunately I’d already been on the street enough to not only know about “collector revenge” but to be able to SEE IT COMING.  His identically proportioned “wife” barreled right in behind him.
            “JUST FOUND THAT!”
            “GOOD ONE!”
            “BEST!  PERFECT after we CLEANED IT UP!” were the first three one sentence paragraphs expressed upon me by the man before I could set the bottle back in its spot.  I said nothing and had no chance to say anything.
            “THAT’S A GOOD BUY!” came two more complete paragraphs.  The wife smiled as my eyes passed from the man’s flint blue eyes to her equally sharp blues.  My mouth was forming the word “ah” and my mind was saying “THE BOTTLE” but I couldn’t extend that to my mouth.
            “WE FOUND THAT.  A GREAT ONE!”
            The one sentence paragraphs didn’t stop.  My mind could pass nothing to my mouth.  It was screaming to say that THIS was THE BOTTLE in the little store downtown.  The store downtown where the fat drunk man sleeps next to the building in the shade.  The store where that man had brought THIS bottle that HE FOUND in the lot behind the buildings on the path that I walk on all the time.  The store where that bottle sat on the counter still covered with dirt and retaining this exact piece of cork in exactly that position for a year with a twenty-five dollar fading and dust covered price sticker on it even though I handled it EVERY TIME I was “downtown” no matter what.  That the hole where the fat drunk man found the bottle on the path in the lot was still exactly there and I can show you it.  That I know all about this bottle and have wanted to buy it for twenty-five dollars for a whole year but never did and never ever thought anyone would ever buy it “for that” and SOMEONE DID and that someone is YOU.
            “I CAN’T SELL IT FOR LESS!”
            “Can’t” was a strange word for something one found for FREE.  My mind shifted to glided.  It WAS the same bottle.  I clashed eyes with the man’s eyes, then diverted to his swap spot.  My hand touched the top of the bottle.  It WAS the same bottle.  “He’s paid for it.  HE PAID the twenty-five” my mind announced between my ears.
            “AIN’T GONNA GET A BETTER ONE!” fired into the back of my head.
            Get?  But I wanted to find.  I mean.  I KNOW who FOUND this.  I know.
            I knew but I did not say.  I didn’t.  I went back to my swap spot.  Later, I slinked back to handle the bottle again.  The man was across the room and I knew he saw me.  But he adjusted his tactics to presume I “wanted that” but he should “lay off” and let me “come to him”.  It was definitely the same bottle.  That was it.
            I told my mother about it on the way home.  She didn’t remember the bottle, the incident of discovery and only acknowledge “how lucky” I “was” when I paralleled that find to the blue stoneware discovery and that the stoneware is “a wonderful piece”.  I gave up.
            I kept going to the store, always on the path through the vacant lot.  The man in the store never “had” any bottles.  He always had other things though and I perpetually “bought” “stuff”.  The fat drunk was usually around, sort of, but he never found anymore bottles either.  The whole incident faded into the past except that the couple who had bought the bottle kept bringing it to their “swap spot”.  I’d like to think they did this because they thought I was going to buy it for I very consciously handled it every time no matter what but I do realize that the reason they were bringing it was because they “had paid for it” so “want to get out of it”.  IF they had actually “found it”, I am sure they would have “kept it”.  BUT the twenty-five dollars had “hurt” and they had bought it purely as speculation.  Well... not pure speculation for it was obvious that they’d “jumped” at the “opportunity” when they first “discovered” “it” in the store, downtown.  This last was finally affirmed.
            One day I bounced into the store after school and there, MUCH to my surprise was “someone” at the counter and it was THE couple.  THEY were THERE.  I recognized them, they recognized me.  We both were equally not delighted to see the other there.  This refined our conversation.  “FINALLY FOUND IT!” the man said to me indicating I had found a secret source of theirs?  The owner of the store who was still stumbling with the “these people know each other?” clause meant my eyes with a perplexity indicating that he knew that I came here a lot more then these “who ARE they?” “did”.  That was enough to keep my mouth shut and after a bottle talk swap sentence or two I “hid” in the back of the store until they “left”.  I listened to every word.  The words were worth listening to.  The couple re-stated for the store owner that, in so many words, they were the greatest bottle buyers he was ever going to meet and if he “ever found anything again” to “call ‘em” and on and on and then... left.  GOOD-BYE.
            The store owner asked me “did” I “know them”.  By some luck of articulation I responded by saying “those are the people who bought that bottle” this last word slammed by pointing to the then full with something else spot on the counter where the gem had rested “for ever”.  Yes he said.  “I saw them with it” I said.
            “They bought it; paid for it.” he said in an actually charitable tone indicating that he knew I’d coveted it and, perhaps, had sort of wished I “gotten it”.  I sort of wished I had too, then.  But now, I KNOW I did “get that” bottle.  I got a lot out of that bottle.

The End

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Downtown - Part Four


Part Four

            I got the money; the “twenty-five” for “the bottle”.  I didn’t buy it.  This was the third thing I learned from the dirty fat drunk.  I didn’t know exactly what it was THEN but now I do.  For some unknown reason at that time, a reason I TRIED to account for, I ...didn’t want... “the bottle”.  Oh I thought... and thought.... very, very hard about it, even setting out on foot from school to “buy it; just buy it”.  But I didn’t.  I’d handle it again and put it back (always with the price tag pointing away from the counter front).  Then I’d end up “finding” “something else” “good” “to buy” and... leave.  Time and time again.  For nearly a year.  It was the spring of the following year before a crescendo of an experience closed the bottle from the vacant lot path incident.
            When I would walk to the store, I walked along the path.  More and more I found myself stopping on the path in the lot and looking around.  I actually seemed to stop AT THE SPOT where the bottle was excavated.  This spot was still visible for the hole, although no longer a perfect impression, did not fill up.  It was a humorously futile exercise of learning.  I would awake to find myself wasting valuable after school “picking” time gazing like a fool around an abandoned space on the wishful notion that another Tippecanoe bottle was going to suddenly burst from the earth.  Finally, after months of this training, I had one of those always USEFUL revelations that not only was this not going to happen but that I looked (and was acting) like an idiot.  There upon I stopped stopping in the vacant lot.
            But I did NOT stop stopping in OTHER vacant lots.  NOR did I stop stopping in other spaces... between.  In fact, I increased my travels to and through this sort of space and... have been “increasing” my travels ...ever since.  Mumbling and stumbling, climbing over or climbing down; climbing IN or going “out back”, “over there”, “through that” and “down behind” created a travel mode that took a two block as the crow flies and turned it into a mile long wilderness excursion.  I found things.  I took them home.  I sold them.  But I never found a Tippecanoe bottle, try and try again.
            One day, at the nearly a year later edge of spring, I traveled the odd trail found behind the little corner “convenience” store that was kiddy-corner from the back exit of the “play ground” of the Junior High School.  That store knew exactly why it was “convenient” to be “there”.  This trail bore south to a public park used for gym class baseball but also forked promptly to allow the selection of another trail that climbed the ridge bordering a stream.  It advanced along the top of that ridge off toward the urban wilderness where, eventually, one could leave it and cross a few streets to cut onto the vacant lot path and arrive where the “antiques shops” “are”.  It was nothing for me to move as fast as I could along the ridge with its scrappy trees and bushes, still barren in the early spring.
            My eyes moved right and left, fore and aft, down and up and “WAIT A MINUTE”.  Blue, the color caught my eye.  BLUE on the GROUND.  In the woods.  Down the bank, toward the stream.  BLUE on the ground in the bushes.  Down the bank, through the bushes to the blue I went.  The only reason I could see the blue was because it was the very edge of spring when land is most barren and exposed.  I could barely “see it”.  BUT IT WAS BLUE and a true blue that I ...knew.  Just as poetic as that I KNEW that BLUE for it was a certain OLD blue the had to be ONLY that OLD BLUE and that blue WAS GOOD; a good old blue.
            My foot pushed the packed leaves from the tinge of exposed blue.  More blue appeared.  I dropped to my knees and dug with my hands.  I KNEW I’d found THE blue.  What I found was the exposed surface of a “piece” of cobalt decorated American stoneware “buried” along the bank of the stream.  Digging was hard.  I had no tools.  Whenever I find something good, it’s always hard and I have no tools.  THAT’S THE ONLY WAY one finds “anything” “good” I ...believe.  Digging; I was digging.  With a stick, that promptly broke, and then with a long rock sliver as if a primitive man.  I exposed the “piece”.  It was a crock; an open urn shaped vessel of three gallons originally used for (generally) food storage.  The blue blossomed under my careless excavation.  A vibrant diffusion of calligraphic gesture picturing a rich cobalt floral spray spread upon the glistening gray-tan salt glazed surface of the ...buried vessel.  It was wholly buried, except for the little blue spot I spied.  WAS IT WHOLE?
            I couldn’t tell.  The woods and wilds are filled with shattered disappointments.  This seemed whole.  In mental image hindsight, I am relieved to note that the urn, lying on it’s side, had its top pointed downhill toward the stream.  This would (and did) prevent WATER from collecting inside the vessel.  This water would have frozen and thawed and that action would have “cracked” (broken) the jar.  It was perfect.  Well, almost perfect it turned out for there WAS a tiny “hairline” crack down the back side but that was “nothing”.  I dug until I could pull it out of the ground.  I carefully removed the dirt from inside.  This, although packed hard at the top, gave way and “dumped” out, again attributable to the downward position on the bank.  I rolled it (it was big) in my hands, holding on to the upper edge.  It was blue, it was perfect and it was marked “TROY NEW YORK”.  “Marked” was “good”.  Troy had several stoneware factories and “marked” pieces of “Troy” were (and are) “very” collectible.  I perspired but didn’t notice.  I dirtied my clothes but didn’t notice.  I didn’t notice anything.  Then I did.  I was staring down at the dark brown dirt in the hole.  The hole had a perfect impression of the vessel at the bottom.  Just like the Tippecanoe bottle.  I studied this.  WAS THERE MORE?  I scanned the surrounding ground.  No sign of anything else.
            I sat the crock down on the ground.  My hands were dirty.  My knees were muddy.  Did I see anything else?  I saw the brown crushed leaves of last fall beneath the twisting bushes.  These spread thin in the openings created by the trunks of the still dormant hardwood trees.  I saw the top of the ridge where the trail was.  I saw the sky meet the horizon formed by the dark line of the ridge with the twisted leafless branches silhouetted above it.  They waved and whipped for a breeze was blowing now.  I’m sure it was blowing before but... I hadn’t noticed.  The light turned bright toward the horizon for the cloud covered sun was headed there and I... should be headed home?
            I looked down at the crock.  I looked along the ridge.  A contemporary green soda bottle bobbed out of the leaves twenty feet away.  I walked over and kicked it loose.  It rolled down the bank but revealed no treasure.  It left a clear impression of it’s excavation below the leaves in the soil.  I went back and picked up the crock, carefully, this time avoiding the former grasp-by-the-rim grip I’d had used at first.  The urn was precious my mind told me.  My body responded with cautious handling.  “I can’t break it”.
            It was heavy, especially after several blocks.  It was awkward to carry for it’s girth prevented an under the arm sling.  Also, I carried my school books as I usually did.  These were in a pack so with that on my back I carried the jar with two arms folded around it and ...staggered onward.  I held the blue decoration toward my chest.  I didn’t want anyone to see “that”.
            At the church parking lot I waited.  I was early?  I didn’t know; usually I found clocks along the way to scare me to this meeting place.  There was no clock on the ridge.  Was I late?  How long did it take to find the crock?  I hadn’t considered that.  I reviewed the time expended and concluded that as I found the crock just after I left school that I couldn’t be late for this premature diversion into antiquities balanced with the time lost digging up this past.  The clouds rolled past the sun, thickening.  The wind blew.  Last fall’s leaves rushed along the fence at the end of the little parking lot.  I ignored this and scrutinized the vessel, rolling it with my hand carefully just off the pavement of the parking lot.
            My mother pulled in.  I could tell she saw the crock right away for she had to drive straight toward it and I at the end of the lot.  Also, she was chipper, gushing a “WHAT HAVE YOU GOT!”.  I knew SHE knew what “I’d got” for I knew SHE knew what blue decorated stoneware was and LIKED IT.  Conversation about antiquities is so much easier when it’s about something someone “likes”. 
            I told her the whole story and as this would be before the mandatory seat belt laws I am sure this included a lot of bouncing up and down on the seat.  I was in the front seat.  So was the crock.  It was on the seat between us, a place of supreme honor.  This was because usually anything I found had to ride “in back”, usually “way back”.  That the crock sat between us indicated wordlessly my mother’s extremely strong appreciation of “what” “I found”.  This immediate appreciation never ceased and the “Troy crock”(as it became known) was, I believe “the best thing” I “ever found” “with her” in her opinion.  She attached ownership to it from the parking lot on.  Of course I wasn’t going to sell it; it was too good.  Also:  I found it.  This was a vague commercial demarcation on the day of discovery but, as my time wore on, the demarcation became a boundary defined by my mother who eventually took the urn and placed it under a table “on display” just inside our front door.  I didn’t ever protest this for, well, my room WAS full and… that showoff spot WAS an “honor” and... well, what are you gonna do when your a kid.  Right?